"Dead Mother"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Dec. 8 2009 6:58 AM

"Dead Mother"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Henri Cole read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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All of life was there—love, death, memory—
as the eyes rolled back into the wrinkled sleeve
of the head, and five or six tears—profound,
unflinching, humane—ran out of her skull,
breathtakingly heroic, and tenderness (massaging
the arms, sponging the lips) morphed into a dog
howling under the bed, the bruised body that
had carried us, splaying itself now, not abstract
but symbolic, like the hot water bottle,
the plastic rosaries, the shoes in the wheelchair
("I'm ready to stretch out"), as dents and punctures
of the flesh—those gruesome flowers—a macabre tumor,
and surreal pain, changed into hallowed marble,
a lens was cleared, a coffer penetrated.

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Henri Cole's most recent book is Touch, which received the Jackson Poetry Prize. He teaches at Ohio State University.

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